Summary: This sermon examines our pre-occupation with things as opposed to the need to focus on God’s work of evangelism and missions.

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Have you ever found yourself getting angry over something that is foolish? These little episodes reveal something about the human personality.

I read a story that reveals this truth. One dark rainy night a salesman had a flat tire on a lonely road. To his dismay he had no lug wrench. Seeing a nearby farmhouse, he set out on foot. Surely the farmer would have a lug wrench, he thought. But would he even come to the door? And if he did, he’d probably be furious at being bothered. He’d say, “What’s the big idea getting me out of bed in the middle of the night?” This thought made the salesman angry. Why, that farmer is a selfish old clod to refuse to help me. Finally the man reached the house. Frustrated and drenched, he banged on the door. “Who’s there?” a voice called out from a window overhead. “You know good and well who it is,” yelled the salesman, his face red with anger. “It’s me! And you can keep your old lug wrench! I wouldn’t borrow it if it was the last one in the county.” Foolish anger!

(Contributed to Sermon Central by Bruce Howell)

I can still remember mine and Judy’s first argument. Do you know what it was about? It was over a sandwich. The real issue was my insensitivity and not the object (sandwich) at the center of the disagreement. Have you noticed that when we get angry the object of our anger is never the real issue!

I want you to look with me at a man who got angry over a vine. God destroyed a vine that was providing shade for Jonah. Jonah said “ ‘Death is better than this!’ And God said to Jonah, ‘Is it right for you to be angry because the plant died?’ ‘Yes,’ Jonah said, ‘it is; it is right for me to be angry enough to die!’“ (Jonah 4:8-9) Jonah felt justified in his anger. However, the object of his anger was not the real issue. It is imperative that we pull back the layers and see the real issue. God had asked Jonah to go to the city of Ninevah and preach. Jonah was prejudiced toward the people of Ninevah. Asking him to go to Ninevah was about like asking a member of the KKK to preach to a group of African Americans. Initially Jonah refused to go to Ninevah; however, with God’s persuasion he was convinced to do God’s will. He went and preached and there was a mass movement toward God. This made Jonah mad (see 4:1). At that point God decided to teach Jonah a lesson. He goes outside the city and sits under a vine which gives him a cool place to relax. As he relaxes, God kills the vine. Jonah got mad. He was angry over a dead vine. Is that not insance! Remember, the vine is not the issue! What is the issue? That is the meat of my sermon today. I want to show you four issues that were behind Jonah’s anger. These things still plague us in churches today.

Reason number one for being angry over vines is: things become more important than people. This is the major affliction affecting American Christians today. In our text Jonah had more pity for a vine than a whole city of people who did not know God. Things can become more important than people.

This can be true in the church.

• We become obsessed with buildings (sanctuaries, multi-purpose buildings, etc.)

• We become obsessed with the trimmings.

• We become obsessed with having things done for us.

This can also be true for us individually.

• We become obsessed with our homes.

• We become obsessed with a hobby.

• We become obsessed with having things done for us.

There is a condition described in the Bible that can afflict any of us. It is called carnality. Paul describes it in I Cor. 3. Carnality occurs when a believer is controlled by the human nature (or flesh) rather than the spirit of God. You can be a Christian but live in the flesh. That was the essence of Jonah’s problem. He was controlled by the flesh.

The spending habits of the American public illustrate this point. One survey taken a few years back showed the American mentality. We spent 16 billion dollars for amusements, 2 billion for travel, 325 million for cat and dog food, 304 million for chewing gum, and 76 million for lipstick. During the same period, the total given for foreign missions by all Protestant churches of the United States was said to be only 145 million dollars—less than half of what Americans spent on chewing gum. If these figures are only reasonably accurate, isn’t it evident to you and me that people are lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God?

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